From Thursday to Sunday, college-football fans around the country celebrated the annual return of their beloved game. But as is the case with most HBCUs, it wasn’t the opening kick-off that had alumni and students filling stadiums; it was the halftime show, and nowhere was that more true than at the Florida Citrus Bowl, featuring Florida A&M University.
For the first time in two years, the Marching 100 Band made its return to its old stomping grounds. It was the band’s first show since its yearlong suspension for a hazing scandal that took the life of former band member Robert Champion, according to the Huffington Post.
At 126 members, the band that returned Sunday was much smaller — there were more than 400 at the time of the suspension. The band’s return began with the pre-game national anthem and continued with a halftime show that brought two packed decks of FAMU fans to their feet.
“It’s a new day,” FAMU band announcer Joe Bullard said as the performance began. “Size does not matter. The sound is clear.”
Pam Champion, Robert Champion’s mother, protested the band’s return.
“It’s too soon for the band to be back on the field simply because there is nothing to indicate the safety of student is being considered at all,” Champion’s mother, Pam Champion told The Associated Press in a phone interview from her home in Decatur, Ga. “I still feel there has been a rush to put the band on the field and that rush … has to do with finance. They are putting profit before safety.”
Before the game, the school acknowledged the death of Champion with a moment of silence.
At a news conference following the game FAMU’s interim President Larry Robinson reiterated the school’s hazing-prevention measures, including a new student code of conduct, new procedures to report and investigate hazing and an anti-hazing website. By his side was Sylvester Young, a 1969 FAMU graduate, who was named the band’s new director.
Robinson said a moment of silence before the game in honor of all hazing victims was sincere.